Exodus 32:3
And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
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(3) All the people brake off the golden earrings.—Aaron had miscalculated the strength of the people’s fanaticism. Not the slightest resistance was offered to his requirement, not the slightest objection made. “All the people,” with one accord, surrendered their earrings. Some measure is hereby afforded of the intensity of the feeling which was moving the people and urging them to substitute an idolatrous worship for the abstract and purely spiritual religion which had reigned supreme since their departure from Egypt.

Exodus 32:3. The people brake off their ear-rings — Whereby they showed both their madness upon their idols, and their base ingratitude to God, who had transferred these jewels from the Egyptians to them.32:1-6 While Moses was in the mount, receiving the law from God, the people made a tumultuous address to Aaron. This giddy multitude were weary of waiting for the return of Moses. Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations. The Lord must be waited for till he comes, and waited for though he tarry. Let their readiness to part with their ear-rings to make an idol, shame our niggardliness in the service of the true God. They did not draw back on account of the cost of their idolatry; and shall we grudge the expenses of religion? Aaron produced the shape of an ox or calf, giving it some finish with a graving tool. They offered sacrifice to this idol. Having set up an image before them, and so changed the truth of God into a lie, their sacrifices were abomination. Had they not, only a few days before, in this very place, heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image? Had they not themselves solemnly entered into covenant with God, that they would do all he had said to them, and would be obedient? ch. 24:7. Yet before they stirred from the place where this covenant had been solemnly made, they brake an express command, in defiance of an express threatening. It plainly shows, that the law was no more able to make holy, than it was to justify; by it is the knowledge of sin, but not the cure of sin. Aaron was set apart by the Divine appointment to the office of the priesthood; but he, who had once shamed himself so far as to build an altar to a golden calf, must own himself unworthy of the honour of attending at the altar of God, and indebted to free grace alone for it. Thus pride and boasting were silenced.Break off the golden earrings - It has been very generally held from early times, that Aaron did not willingly lend himself to the mad design of the multitude; but that, overcome by their importunity, he asked them to give up such possessions as he knew they would not willingly part with, in the hope of putting a check on them. Assuming this to have been his purpose, he took a wrong measure of their fanaticism, for all the people made the sacrifice at once Exodus 32:3. His weakness, in any case, was unpardonable and called for the intercession of Moses Deuteronomy 9:20.3. all the people brake off the golden earrings—The Egyptian rings, as seen on the monuments, were round massy plates of metal; and as they were rings of this sort the Israelites wore, their size and number must, in the general collection, have produced a large store of the precious metal. Whereby they show both their madness upon their idols, and their base ingratitude to their God, who had transferred these jewels from the Egyptians to them, Exodus 12:35,36, which therefore God upbraids them with, Ezekiel 16:11, &c.

In their ears, i.e. the men’s ears, for the affix is of the masculine gender; whereby it seems the men were more set upon idolatry than the women, parting with their earrings for it, which the women would not do. And all the people brake off the golden earrings, which were in their ears,.... The men took off their earrings, and persuaded their wives and children, or obliged them to part with theirs; though the Targum of Jonathan says the women refused to give their ornaments to their husbands, therefore all the people immediately broke off all the golden ornaments which were in their ears (x), so intent were they upon idolatry. This is to be understood not of every individual, but of the greatest part of the people; so apostle explains it of some of them, 1 Corinthians 10:7. Idolaters spare no cost nor pains to support their worship, and will strip themselves, their wives, and children, of their ornaments, to deck their idols; which may shame the worshippers of the true God, who are oftentimes too backward to contribute towards the maintenance of his worship and service:

and brought them unto Aaron: presently, the selfsame day; they soon forgot the commands enjoined them to have no other gods, save one, and to make no graven image to bow down to it, and their own words, Exodus 24:7.

(x) So Pirke Eliezer, c. 45.

And all the people brake off the {c} golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

(c) Such is the rage of idolaters, that they spare no cost to satisfy their wicked desires.

Verse 3. - All the people broke off the golden ear-rings. Thus, as is supposed, disappointing Aaron, who had counted on the refusal of the women to part with their finery, and the reluctance of the men to compel them. Had ear-rings been still regarded as amulets (Genesis 1.s.c.) it is not likely that they would have been so readily given up. (cf. Exodus 35:2-3). God concludes by enforcing the observance of His Sabbaths in the most solemn manner, repeating the threat of death and extermination in the case of every transgressor. The repetition and further development of this command, which was included already in the decalogue, is quite in its proper place here, inasmuch as the thought might easily have occurred, that it was allowable to omit the keeping of the Sabbath, when the execution of so great a work in honour of Jehovah had been commanded. "My Sabbaths:" by these we are to understand the weekly Sabbaths, not the other sabbatical festivals, since the words which follow apply to the weekly Sabbath alone. This was "a sign between Jehovah and Israel for all generations, to know (i.e., by which Israel might learn) that it was Jehovah who sanctified them," viz., by the sabbatical rest (see at Exodus 20:11). It was therefore a holy thing for Israel (Exodus 31:14), the desecration of which would be followed by the punishment of death, as a breach of the covenant. The kernel of the Sabbath commandment is repeated in Exodus 31:15; the seventh day of the week, however, is not simply designated a "Sabbath," but שׁבּתון שׁבּת "a high Sabbath" (the repetition of the same word, or of an abstract form of the concrete noun, denoting the superlative; see Ges. 113, 2), and "holy to Jehovah" (see at Exodus 16:23). For this reason Israel was to keep it in all future generations, i.e., to observe it as an eternal covenant (Exodus 31:16), as in the case of circumcision, since it was to be a sign for ever between Jehovah and the children of Israel (Ezekiel 20:20). The eternal duration of this sign was involved in the signification of the sabbatical rest, which is pointed out in Exodus 20:11, and reaches forward into eternity.
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